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World Championship Diaries: Ollie Sleightholme

Fraser Dingwall, Alex Coles and Ollie Sleightholme are flying the Black, Green and Gold flag across the other side of the world with England Under-20s.

The trio of young Saints are all representing their country at the World Rugby Under-20s Championship, which takes place in Argentina from the 4th to the 22nd of June.

In a series of diary entries, we are catching up with the lads throughout the tournament as they bid to become world champions.

Next up is wing Sleightholme, who has led the charge for the Red Rose with three tries to his name so far – and after two excellent wins over Italy (24-23) and Australia (56-31), the mood within the camp is buoyant.

Since the first game we played, we’ve all had a little bit more time to head out and get a good look around Santa Fe where we are staying.

We went on a boat tour down the river which was pretty interesting, and we’ve obviously been out in town exploring and having a few coffees as well which has been great.

I’ve been rooming with Tom de Glanville who I’ve not stayed with before, but I’ve known him for ages as our dads both played together ages ago for England.

We’ve obviously come up through the pathway together too so I know him well and he’s been a good roommate as we’re pretty similar to be fair – both of us are a little bit messy so it doesn’t get on anyone’s nerves!

We’re getting up at around the same time which always helps and he’s not a snorer or anything like that.

The Argentinian TV has actually been pretty good with a lot of English language movies on, but we’ve also been catching up with ‘Line of Duty’ when we can.

The locals have really embraced the tournament a lot more than I thought they would actually, and it definitely helps that Argentina are into the semi-finals.

Everyone here is really excited about that and the crowds have been great from the very start of the competition, with loads of local kids filling out the stands who want to grab your shorts and socks after the game.

It was really good to sit down and have a few beers in the hotel with some of the Aussie boys after our game the other day – we’d been in the same hotel for two weeks waiting to play them, but no-one had really said a word as such for obvious reasons.

But once the game was done it was nice to have a good catch-up with them over a couple of drinks, that’s what rugby’s about.

It definitely was a bit of a strange game with one of their players getting a red card so early on, but we’d spoken all week about how we’d not really performed how we had wanted to so far in the competition.

We wanted to right some wrongs against Australia and I think we did that with the result we had. It’s always good to get one over on the Aussies but the nature of the win made it even better.

We were on top of them even before the red card to be fair, but we just put the pressure on straight away and were playing very well. As soon as they went down to 14 we put our foot on the gas and ran away with it.

We’ve been building nicely and every game our attack and defence has got better, but the game against Australia was our opportunity to put a marker down.

I’m really happy to have got a few tries to my name so far in the competition; the first couple were a bit bittersweet as they came in a game we lost, so getting over the line in a victory against Australia was really nice.

After the Italy game I think we all had a bit of a funny feeling because we basically needed one more try to allow us to qualify from the group as one of the top four sides – it was strange as it felt like a loss, even though we won the match.

But a few of the bigger personalities in the team like Dingers as captain just got everyone together and got the squad’s heads up after a bit of a chat. It was important to recognise that even though we maybe could have won the game by a few more, it was still a win and a game that we won well against a strong Italy side.

Even though this is a young group there’s a lot of character in the squad, and it says a lot about the ambition of the team – we know how well we can play, so the reaction against Italy was just that it wasn’t our best, but we bounced back really well against Australia and showed what we can do.

Fraser’s been excellent as captain; he likes to lead with actions rather than being a very shouty skipper. There are other boys within the squad who take that role of revving everyone up, but Dingers leads by example on the pitch and is someone the who squad respects.

Our next game now is against Ireland again who we lost to in our first game of the tournament, so we definitely have an axe to grind with them having lost to them twice this year.

We want to put a big statement down against them and we’re obviously aiming to go on from there and finish as high as we can in the tournament, even though we can no longer reach the finals for first place.

When we played Ireland a week or so ago it felt like we were on top for large periods of the game and our own mistakes let them back into the game, so more than anything specific to improve on, we just need to put the clarity and accuracy back into our performance.

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